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Ronald Riddle

(b New York, May 20, 1889; d Harmon, NY, Oct 10, 1918). American composer and pianist. After studying the piano at the National Conservatory of Music in America and taking private lessons with Alexander Lambert, he pursued a varied career in New York, writing material for vaudeville entertainers, serving as a staff pianist for various publishers and recording extensively both on piano rolls (Duo-Art, QRS) and discs (Victor). Arndt’s compositions combine salon gentility with occasional ragtime syncopation, foreshadowing the novelty-piano works of the 1920s by such composers as Confrey and Bargy. They include ...

Article

Lise Waxer

(b Santa Clara, Feb 11, 1893; d Havana, Jan 20, 1943). Cuban pianist and bandleader. As the leader of the Havana Casino Orchestra he is best known for having launched the El manicero (‘Peanut Vendor’) craze in the United States after his band performed this number at New York’s Palace Theater on 26 April 1930. Written by Moises Simon, the song became an instant hit, and within a year popular jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington had recorded versions of the tune. Expanding upon the traditional Cuban conjunto (sextet or septet), Azpiazú’s band was a 14-piece dance orchestra with trumpets, saxophones, trombone, tuba, piano, bass and Cuban percussion. Although Latin bands already existed in New York, his was the first group to be successful with the non-Latino public, helping to catalyze the rhumba dance craze that lasted throughout the decade. The Havana Casino Orchestra recorded popular versions of other tunes such as ...

Article

Michael J. Budds

(b Kansas City, MO, May 12, 1928). American composer and pianist. He learnt the cello, drums and piano from an early age and developed a particular interest in jazz. He played as a night club pianist, and then served in the army, touring as a pianist (1950–52). He went on to study music at the Mannes College of Music, New York, the New School of Social Research, McGill University, Montreal and gained a scholarship to the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara, California. His composition teachers included Milhaud, Martinů and Cowell. Bacharach became an accompanist for Vic Damone, subsequently working with such performers as Polly Bergen, Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers and Paula Stewart, to whom he was married from 1953 to 1958. From 1958 to 1961 he toured internationally with Marlene Dietrich. Bacharach began writing arrangements and composing songs in the mid-1950s, working at the Brill Building and collaborating with the lyricist Hal David (...

Article

David Thomas Roberts

(b Newaygo, MI, July 31, 1894; d Vista, CA, Jan 16, 1974). American composer and pianist. He began to study piano at the age of five in Toledo, Ohio. By the time he was 17 he had discarded his ambitions to become a concert pianist, having become fascinated with ragtime pianists in Toledo’s red-light district, including the famous exponent of eastern ragtime Luckey Roberts. After playing professionally in cinemas and organizing a dance band, he was engaged in 1919 by the ragtime composer Charley Straight to edit, play, arrange and compose for Imperial Player Rolls. Bargy’s association with Straight led to his acquaintance with the agent Edgar Benson, who assembled a band directed by Bargy to record for Victor. Bargy later joined Isham Jones’s orchestra for two years and, in 1928, began a 12-year association with Paul Whiteman’s band, for which he is best remembered today. Later he served as conductor and arranger for Larry Ross’s radio show, and from ...

Article

Alyn Shipton

(b Leeds, Nov 11, 1913; d Clacton, May 6, 1993). English dance bandleader, saxophonist, pianist and singer. She was a child prodigy as a pianist, broadcasting on ‘Children’s Hour’ in 1922, and playing frequently in public. She took up the clarinet and saxophone in her teens, and in 1929 joined her first all-female band, led by Edna Croudson. After some years with Croudson, she came to London and in 1937 played in female orchestras directed by Teddy Joyce, becoming leader of his Girl Friends. In 1940, after leading small groups of her own, she formed a nine-piece band for the revue Meet the Girls, which had an entirely female cast. For the rest of her career Benson led an all-female band, variously called her Rhythm Girl Band, her Ladies’ Dance Orchestra and her Showband. She broadcast frequently during World War II and afterwards, and toured internationally for the Entertainments National Servicemen’s Association from the 1940s onwards. In the 1940s she mainly played in a jazz-influenced swing style, but later often added a string section to play dance music in the manner of Victor Sylvester or Mantovani....

Article

Karen Monson

[Rosenbaum, Borge]

(b Copenhagen, Jan 3, 1909; d Greenwich, CT, Dec 23, 2000). American pianist, musical humorist and conductor of Danish birth. After early training with his father, he gave a piano recital at the age of eight in Copenhagen, which won for him a scholarship to the conservatory; he later studied with Frederic Lamond and Egon Petri in Berlin. He performed in amateur musical revues in Copenhagen, but his satires of Hitler placed him in danger and he fled, first to Sweden and then to the USA, where he later became a citizen. In New York in 1940 he began regularly to appear on Bing Crosby’s ‘Kraft Music Hall’ radio series, which led to a radio show of his own. Starting in the autumn of 1953 he gave nearly 850 daily recitals under the title ‘Comedy in Music’ at the Golden Theater on Broadway. He toured in many parts of the world and appeared widely on radio and television and in films. His routines (which were partly improvised) were a mixture of verbal and musical humour, delivered at the piano; though his comic reputation was based on his continually forestalling and interrupting his own playing, he was an accomplished performer, as his elaborate musical jokes (such as the composite piano concerto consisting of well-known passages from the repertory skilfully run together) demonstrated....

Article

Philip L. Scowcroft

(b Sydney, Sept 26, 1866; d London, Nov 17, 1951). British pianist and composer of Australian birth. He came to London in 1889 after touring as a pianist in Asia and Australasia and appeared as an accompanist in England before concentrating on composition. He also wrote music criticism for The Observer from 1908 to 1918 and later was vice chairman of the Performing Right Society. Until about 1914 his compositions were not aimed at a wide commercial audience: orchestral works were performed by major London orchestras and four operas were staged, including King Harlequin which was produced in Berlin. The watershed between his serious and light music was his collaboration with the composer Bath and the lyricist Basil Hood in a patriotic operetta, Young England, produced in Birmingham in 1916, before transferring to Daly's and then Drury Lane in London. This was the first of several musicals both original and using music, though not exclusively so, by others, like the popular ...

Article

Geoffrey Self

(b Hucknall, Aug 27, 1886; d Chichester, Dec 23, 1957). English viola player and composer. He studied violin with Georg Ellenberger and harmony with Ralph Horner, but changed to the viola, for which he found a greater demand in Nottingham. Entering the RAM in 1906, he expected viola to be his main study and was indeed placed with Tertis, but the principal, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, had admired his submitted songs and allocated him to Corder for composition. Coates rapidly came to the forefront of viola players, playing for the Beecham SO and Wood's Queen's Hall Orchestra, of which he was principal viola 1912–19. Chronic neuritis plagued him and in 1919, after Wood dismissed him, he never played again.

His composing reputation had been made early by such songs as Stonecracker John (1909) and by Wood's performance of the Miniature Suite at the 1911 Proms. Thereafter he produced a steady stream of orchestral suites, phantasies, marches and waltzes together with some 160 songs, the last march being completed in ...

Article

Geoffrey Block

[Kaufman, Seymour]

(b New York, June 14, 1929; d New York, Nov 18, 2004). American composer and pianist. The son of Russian immigrants, he began to play the piano at the age of four, and performed recitals at the Steinway and Carnegie halls by seven. He studied counterpoint and orchestration at the New York College of Music and developed a serious interest in jazz, within a few years performing in New York nightclubs with his trio and starting a long recording career as a jazz pianist. A collaboration with the lyricist Joseph Allan McCarthy yielded several song hits between 1952 and 1956, including Why try to change me now?, I'm gonna laugh you right out of my life and Tin Pan Alley, the last of which appeared in Coleman's first Broadway venture, the revue John Murray Anderson's Almanac (1953). By the late 1950s he had produced an impressive list of song standards with lyricist Carolyn Leigh, which included ...

Article

Lise Waxer

[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]

(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...